Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Paradox of Cairo Nightlife

I have blogged extensively about the delights and nuances of traveling as a westerner in Egypt, and I think that Cairo exemplifies these nuances. In contrast to the Disney-esque atmosphere of Luxor, you will find a much stricter Muslim tradition in lower Egypt. Few locals wear short sleeves, and nobody wears short pants, despite the blazing temperatures of Egypt in the fall. The women in Cairo are much more inclined to cover their hair, the subway features cars strictly for women, and you will see considerably more niqabi in Cairo than in upper Egypt.

So it's quite a surprise when the sun goes down over the Nile that first night, and the atmosphere spontaneously morphs into a more exotic version of Las Vegas. Suddenly, gone is the ubiquitous, beautiful, haunting call to prayer that hangs over Cairo all day with the smog. Instead, the thumping, pulsating beat of techno music blasts through the streets like a massive heartbeat, and it takes a moment to realize that yes, the lyrics are usually in Arabic.

Much of the energy is rippling from cruise ships docked along the Nile. Touts will step off of the ships onto the streets and try to persuade you that their Nile Cruise is the best. They offer belly dancers, sheesha, and yes, even alcohol.

Observing the paradoxical night-life in this 90% Muslim city, you become acutely aware of the conundrum facing the Egyptian people. In a country where tourism is the life-blood for almost everyone, does one stick to one's beliefs and starve to death? Or does one close an eye to the Qaran and entertain the western world? While I can only assume what the choice would be, to anyone actually given a choice, the undulating nightlife in the Cairo streets underscores the reality the Egyptians are entrenched in. Enjoy the atmosphere while you are here, my western friends, but please, tip well and be respectful. The Egyptians need the income, and you are a visitor in their home.

This blog post explores a non-fictional theme or locale that is incorporated in The Vesuvius Isotope, the first Katrina Stone novel. Buy The Vesuvius Isotope in print or ebook.

From the ancient ruins beneath Mount Vesuvius, a two-thousand-year-old document has emerged. It is the only text ever attributed to the ambitious, inquisitive, and cryptic last pharaoh of Egypt...

When her Nobel laureate husband is murdered, biologist Katrina Stone can no longer ignore the secrecy that has increasingly pervaded his recent behavior. Her search for answers leads to a two-thousand-year-old medical mystery and the life of one of history’s most enigmatic women. Following the trail forged by her late husband, Katrina must separate truth from legend as she chases medicine from ancient Italy and Egypt to a clandestine modern-day war. Her quest will reveal a legacy of greed and murder and resurrect an ancient plague into the twenty-first century.

Kristen Elise, Ph.D. is a drug discovery biologist and the author of The Vesuvius Isotope and The Death Row Complex. She lives in San Diego, California, with her husband, stepson, and three canine children.